Friday, October 9, 2015

Nickfluence Animation Challenge UPDATE

HEYYYYY, everyone!

So a lot has happened in the Nickfluence People's Choice competition since my last post. I almost don't even know where to begin!

I encourage you to read my last post if you want any context, or
 my thoughts and opinions on the Entries themselves.

I'll start with my interactive Leaderboards (I update these daily).

The first graph is the most interesting, because it shows the rate of increase for each Entry in the contest.
Let me give you a play-by-play so you can understand the highlights so far.


   October 6th is when the People's Choice competition went from being a game to a war. This is the day when Priscilla (Don't Give Up) made the first power-move and gained over 300 votes in one day. This is a turning point in the competition because Priscilla gained such a substantial lead that even front-runner contestants like Christina ("Thank You") showed a loss in votes because of discouragement. Who could compete with her then when she had such a lead? It seemed impossible.

(Meanwhile, I continued to walk along, and I managed to emerge from the rabble of lost souls under 250 votes. That is where the majority of Entries remain.)

Over the next couple days, things got even more heated. On Oct. 7th, a new short appeared-- "Stages of Life" by Abby (the short must have been late because of moderators approving the short late or something). Abby managed to garner over 400 votes in her first day, which is terrifying. I had only managed to get to 271 that day, and she surpassed me very quickly.

Now here is when it gets crazy.

I was walking to my job yesterday obsessing over this (I have fun obsessing over things like this even if I know it's mostly a nebulous competition. Just humor me here. ;P ) And I was thinking about the sheer amount of votes that these contestants are able to garner in so short a time.


For the record, I want to mention that I have NO real reason to believe that any contestants are "cheating" by changing their IP addresses and voting multiple times. I don't believe anyone is cheating because 1) I spoke with another contestant and she divulged how she was truly able to do it, and 2) I was able to garner votes myself so I know that the most efficient way to get votes is to "go viral" within a circle of influence. Meaning if you can get 300 people to click on something simultaneously, then you just got 300 votes. So if a boss sends a company email, for instance, than you've got a viral spike on your hands.

I thought to myself, "How am I going to compete with this? If I actually want to challenge these guys, then I can't just "play games". This is make or break. This is not a game, this is going to have to be a war or I have no chance. I am going to have to make my own power-moves if I want any chance of seeing 1st place." And so from then on, I resolved that I was all in. I was going to make some serious moves. Because according to the numbers, I could never get along with 50-60 votes per-day. I was going to have to get hundreds  of votes every day. More like 300-400 at least.

So what did I do? Well, the funny thing is I don't feel like I did much.

I wrote out a comically inspirational (but totally sincere) speech and directed it to my Facebook and Google+ friends. Then both of my brothers solicited their large fan-bases and circles of influence for support. Soon enough, within several hours of doing so, I was going "viral" and I made over 200 votes that night. And that's when I realized: that's how it's done. These are the weapons with which this war is fought: inspiration-fueled solicitation shared from person to person. And that is the power that can get you hundreds of votes in a couple hours.






But during the same time, another player was making their move.

During the course of Oct 8th, Ellen (Of Dragons and Men) made probably the biggest move yet--making well over 500 votes and continuing the next day until she was well into the 1,000's. Whatever dark powers she invoked, I do not yet know. Ellen, if you're reading this, I'd love to hear about it.

And that leaves us at today. Today Priscilla is over 2,000, Ellen is into the 1,000's, and I am almost in the 1,000's myself.

Is this what the "People's Choice" competition was meant to be? No. But is that what it's become? Absolutely yes. This has become an entirely different game. And if it's a war my competitors want, it's a war they'll get. ;)

So best of luck to all of you.

And if you're not voting for yourself, make sure to vote for my short!




Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Nickfluence Animation Challenge!

HEEEEEYYYY 


I was busy all last month both animating my entry for the Nickfluence Animation Challenge and deciding if I really wanted to go through with it. But thanks to some encouraging words I actually went through with it and mostly finished my short. I submitted it to the Nickfluence website with literally 3 minutes to spare. I didn't get to color my short or completely clean it up, but I did it and I'm proud. You can watch my short here! Vote for it, and tell me what you think. I'll probably make another post later to show my rough animation and talk a little bit about the process of making my short.

(So the way this works, is the general public votes right here for their favorite entry to win the "People's Choice Award" which is just Nickelodeon merchandise and the possibility of getting their short on TV. The Grand Prize winner is chosen by Nickelodeon and that Award is a $25,000 scholarship.)

So what I wanted to do here was to offer my thoughts on a lot of the shorts in the competition and to show you how much fun I've made out of this. I mean, seriously, I like making my own little exciting drama out of stuff like this, so if it seems like I'm WAY too into this, then know that I agree with you, but I don't care. ;)

The Shorts

So just a small warning, I want to acknowledge how amazing I think every contestant is for entering in this competition. I may be brutally honest about shorts at some point, so take my words with a grain of salt. Regardless of whether I think your short is one of my "favorites" or not, just know that you're amazing and you should keep animating. Animation is amazing, so keep practicing and blow us away!

There were 41 entries submitted to the College competition. To me, it looks like there are three types of shorts:
  1. Shorts that I personally like
  2. Shorts that are front-runners in People's Choice votes
So looking at the entries, I can see that about 8 or 9 of them are ones I personally like, then there are a couple middle ones that are winning (Don't hate 'em, don't love 'em. Although one in particular is very weak compared to the others), and then the rest of the shorts have fallen by the wayside.

I thought it'd be fun to offer some opinions on some of my favorite shorts. Then I'll talk about the actual People's Choice competition, which is another animal entirely.

The general theme of the competition was "How has Nickelodeon changed your life?" But they gave contestants freedom to create whatever they wanted

  1. My all-time favorite short in the competition is MountainMan. It may not have any relation to the actual Nickelodeon theme, but I think it succeeds in every other way. The animation is actually very very good, especially in the passage of time sequence with the sun (brilliant). I love how eerie and atmospheric it manages to be. It's also fully colored and cleaned up. Honestly, this reminds me of Adventure Time, and I wouldn't think twice if this aired on that show. It would blend right in.
    I haven't managed to get a hold of the creator, but if you're out there Mr. Downs, good job. It's a wonderful short.
  2. "My Nickfluence" is another good short, but it actually fits the theme perfectly. I actually think this short has very good chances at winning the Grand Prize because of its polish and content. It's colorful and finished looking, and captures the "Nickfluence" theme wonderfully with the bookend theme of an animator inspiring future animators. I could see Nickelodeon showing this off as their winner. My only qualm with it is that it doesn't have a lot of "full animation", it usually shows very limited movement. But that's not neccessarily wrong, and has nothing to do with its qualifications to Nickelodeon. In fact, I thought it looked purposeful to have limited movement. But I just like seeing more full animation. But you can't have everything, and that's okay.
    I actually reached out to the creator about how I liked the short, and she was very appreciative, and even offered her thoughts on my own short. Sportsmanship!
  3. "Clucky's Birthday Surprise" is a very different short from the rest of the entries. It shows a strong understanding of acting, which no other shorts went for. It's just a one-on-one conversation with back-and-forth banter the whole time. This only works because the voice acting sounds so natural and the animation is pretty good at capturing it. This short actually reminds me of something I'd see on an improv acting stage where two characters just keep going off of eachother and nobody "tags" them out. Good stuff!
  4. "I'm Nickfluenced" is actually really close to my own short, but unfortunately it looks less finished than mine. In the description, the creator mentions CalArts, and that makes perfect sense. The drawing style does have that House Style look to it, and the watercolor look looks amazing. I'm really impressed with the idea to do things in 3 slices. It's really smart, I just wish she were able to finish it more!
  5. "The Rockstar" has some good animation, but I don't have that much to say about it. Good short.
  6. "Gotta Go Fast" is the only CG entry in the College competition, so think that deserves some recognition. And it made me laugh a couple times.
  7. "Underwater Adventure" has some amazing animation, and it's done with pencil-on-paper which is awesome. I love the moment from when she goes underwater to when the octopus shows up. The floating/swimming animation is awesome, and the Take when she sees the fish is sooooo gooooood.
  8. ""Stages of Life" actually came in late, probably because the moderators took longer to approve it. I actually like this short a lot. There's a good amount of real animation, color, and an upbeat attitude that I like. It's very easy to follow and feel excited about when you watch it. And I love how the individual's style shows through each of the characters, rather than trying to draw them all "on model". Good short!
  9. Breaking the Shell: My Nickfluence has some amazing animation. It's really short, but I think it probably has the most "full" animation in the whole competition. It looks great.
  10. Matter has some really good effects animation and perspective stuff.
  11. Tongue Tied is a good cartoon-y short--the animation is good. There's way too many stock sound effects though.
  12. "What's My Nickfluence?" has a whole lot of tests in it. It's basically like a demo reel. Some of them are pretty decent. I actually like watching the rotoscope tests the most, they're really well done.
So those are my favorites. But I've quickly learned that there is not much relation to how "good" I think a short is and how many votes it gets. Impressing Nickelodeon is one thing, but the People's Choice voting competition is a completely different game.

The People's Choice voting competition

When voting opened on Sept. 28th, the website's voting system was actually broken. But I think I was the first one to vote for myself (I'M NOT ASHAMED!) and I became the "Current Leader" for a day. I think "My Nickfluence" also got a vote later that day.

Basically, the problem with the site was that the voting system is supposed to accept 1 vote per IP address per day, but it accidentally accepted 1 vote per entry EVER. Whoops!

So after the Nickfluence Team fixed the problem the next day, things quickly changed. Many of those who are in the Top Ten (as I've called it) seem to have gotten there not because of unbiased passersby who show up to vote on what they think is the best short, but because they rally together their friends and family to vote for their short. At least, that's what I assume the front-runners have been doing.

There's no shame in that, that's the only way to get ahead, because nobody has really heard about this competition anyways. So this has become a battle of the fan bases. Everyone is rallying support from every social network they can muster-- Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, friends, churches. It's funny how much effort we can give for a mystery Swag Box (with an estimated value of $500 I might add...curious...)
So here's the fun part, I have been compiling the data since Oct. 1st to track the progress of all the Entries in the competition. I'll keep updating the results right here.

Here is the Leaderboard I'll be keeping up to date. 

The first three days are mostly fabricated numbers from my mind. I only remember roughly who was and wasn't in the lead at those points. But from Oct 1st on I have been recording the votes every morning.
So as you can see, I am having way too much fun with this. ;)

But seriously, what is most interesting about this is how many votes "Thank You", "Mugman", and "Don't Give Up" are managing to garner. "Thank You" and "Don't Give Up" are particularly surprising. They actually seem to be getting an average of 50-60 votes per day-- much more than anyone else is managing. I'm assuming this is a testament to some kind of fan base, or just dedicated friends and family. I don't expect they would want to give away their secrets, but hey, if you're reading this then I want whatever you've got. ;)

Not to knock my own friends and family, but I've been shouting at everyone to vote for me, and then my friends and family have been doing the same, and I have only just broken 100 votes yesterday afternoon. I'm pretty impressed with the sheer momentum that the Top 3 have been able to achieve (although it seems "Mugman" is losing steam very quickly).

Even though I am beginning to doubt that I can win the People's Choice Award, I'm not going to give up. I believe in my short, and the competitive side of me wants to beat everyone else wholesale. And it's just so fun to care about something a lot and fight for something. ;)

Conclusion...
Even if I don't win the People's Choice Award or the Grand Prize, I'm still glad that I entered in this competition. It's been so much fun making my first animated short, and it's been really fun seeing what everyone else is doing. 
To all the other contestants, I wish you good luck. But I'm not going to go down without a fight! I may be at the bottom of the Top 10, but if my momentum is any indication, I'll be fighting for #5 or #6 soon enough. 

And don't hesitate to leave a comment and tell me what you think! I have been enjoying keeping in touch with some of the contestants, and I love to hear what you think!




God bless!
-Steven

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Forgotten songs

I just discovered a bunch of old songs that I recorded hidden deep within the forgotten corners of my computer files. I totally forgot that I recorded most of these, so it's a really fun surprise to find that I made a bunch of stuff. I don't know why I never "finished" these and showed them to anyone.

These are all really raw and crappily made, but I think there's something good about them. I recorded these in my room with a cheap and tiny microphone using Audacity.


The Left 4 Dead covers I made for a project that never happened (yet??).





I mostly remember doing the L4D songs, but I barely remember making these.




I also attempted to record the "Clock Town" theme from "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask" for a Videosong competition, but for whatever reason, all those files got totally jumbled up and confused. I have some of the screwed up files and video files, but I don't think they're worth hashing together.

I also seem to have begun recording the Wind Waker theme, but never finished it. I think I'll finish it and publish that later. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Droids

My friends and I thought we'd have some fun playing a Star Wars based role-playing game. I love playing games like D&D because I like to imagine characters and make up stories.

I threw together an animation to visualize how my droid character would work.

The idea is basically like John Silver from Treasure Planet. His arm swaps out for different accessories and weapons.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Animation practice!

You know how sometimes you have a dream and instead of doing something about it, you just sit on it and daydream about it for years? That's the story of my life.
I've dreamed of being a character animator for a long time now. Unfortunately, I've spent much of my time not practicing, and just studying and watching animation and learning about the craft. That's all good and well, but I think it's about time I start getting my hands dirty.
So in the spirit of my "Draw 2013" challenge, I thought it'd be fun to chronicle my animation practice here for all to see.

These are probably just going to be a lot of doodles in motion, but hopefully they'll be fun to watch and hopefully I'll improve as I go on. Most of these will be done in cheap or free animation programs like PAP4 and Flipnote 3D (a surprisingly good app for Nintendo 3DS. Seriously, it works really well).

Enjoy!

Just starting out with the basics.


I had fun with this one. I was experimenting with the way you can draw across multiple frames to make that confetti effect.


I like the snappy, bouncy timing on this.


Hope you like bouncing balls because there's going to be a lot of them.


With this one I needed an excuse to make the animation loop, so I just...did it.

Adding some secondary animation. ;)


I'm using Flipnote 3D now, and it's helping me a lot. It's a lot faster and easier to use, and it's portable. Sorry, PAP4, but you've been surpassed by a Nintendo app.

I'm still practicing with bouncing balls and blobs, but I'm trying to add personality to them.

It's fun doing these, because you get really fast results, and it still looks alive. It just goes to show you how far some decent spacing and timing can go.

When viewed on a 3DS screen, his foot has a 3D effect. I still feel like I could put more work into perfecting this, but whatever.




Thursday, February 19, 2015

2013 drawing project

At the beginning of 2013, I thought it would be a good idea to do a "365 day challenge" for myself. Since I have been thinking about pursuing a career in animation for a while now I knew I needed to start skill-building soon or my dreams might be in jeopardy, so I figured I needed to learn to draw.

What I didn't realize was that two years later I would still be haunted by the ghost of my own commitment to myself. It' s February of 2015 and I'm only now nearing my goal of 365 drawings.

All this time, I've been posting my drawings on Facebook and Google+ because I thought it would be fun to show people my progress (and sometimes frustration) as the year went on. Since that format has become more and more confusing and more and more difficult to look at, I thought I'd try using this format to make things easier to deal with.

Without further ado, here's my 2013 drawing project up until this point. Enjoy the ups and downs of a project that's gone far too long, and for my honest, frustrated, and inspired expressions.

[Note: Most of the comments are ones that I made when I originally posted the photos online.
EDIT: For some reason I can't correct all the text unless I make it weird colors. So enjoy the purplish text. :( ]